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1.  Mediterranean diet or extended fasting's influence on changing the intestinal microflora, immunoglobulin A secretion and clinical outcome in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia: an observational study 
Background
Alterations in the intestinal bacterial flora are believed to be contributing factors to many chronic inflammatory and degenerative diseases including rheumatic diseases. While microbiological fecal culture analysis is now increasingly used, little is known about the relationship of changes in intestinal flora, dietary patterns and clinical outcome in specific diseases. To clarify the role of microbiological culture analysis we aimed to evaluate whether in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or fibromyalgia (FM) a Mediterranean diet or an 8-day fasting period are associated with changes in fecal flora and whether changes in fecal flora are associated with clinical outcome.
Methods
During a two-months-period 51 consecutive patients from an Integrative Medicine hospital department with an established diagnosis of RA (n = 16) or FM (n = 35) were included in the study. According to predefined clinical criteria and the subjects' choice the patients received a mostly vegetarian Mediterranean diet (n = 21; mean age 50.9 +/-13.3 y) or participated in an intermittent modified 8-day fasting therapy (n = 30; mean age 53.7 +/- 9.4 y). Quantitative aerob and anaerob bacterial flora, stool pH and concentrations of secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA) were analysed from stool samples at the beginning, at the end of the 2-week hospital stay and at a 3-months follow-up. Clinical outcome was assessed with the DAS 28 for RA patients and with a disease severity rating scale in FM patients.
Results
We found no significant changes in the fecal bacterial counts following the two dietary interventions within and between groups, nor were significant differences found in the analysis of sIgA and stool ph. Clinical improvement at the end of the hospital stay tended to be greater in fasting vs. non-fasting patients with RA (p = 0.09). Clinical outcome was not related to alterations in the intestinal flora.
Conclusion
Neither Mediterranean diet nor fasting treatments affect the microbiologically assessed intestinal flora and sIgA levels in patients with RA and FM. The impact of dietary interventions on the human intestinal flora and the role of the fecal flora in rheumatic diseases have to be clarified with newer molecular analysis techniques. The potential benefit of fasting treatment in RA and FM should be further tested in randomised trials.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-22
PMCID: PMC1352378  PMID: 16372904
2.  Effects among healthy subjects of the duration of regularly practicing a guided imagery program 
Background
We examined a large number of healthy adults in the general community who had individually participated in a guided imagery (GI) program daily and for various durations, to examine the psychophysiological effects of a GI program within a healthy group.
Methods
We studied 176 subjects who had participated in sessions that were part of a guided imagery program, and who had practiced GI at home for 20 minutes once daily in a quiet place after mastering GI in the group sessions. The average duration of GI practiced at home was 6.88 ± 14.06 months (n = 138, range: 0 to 72). The Multiple Mood Scale (MMS), Betts (1909) Shortened Questionnaire on Mental Imagery (QMI), and a visual analog scale (VAS) of imagery vividness, salivary cortisol (CS) levels, general stress and general health were used in the sessions.
Results
We examined the relationship between the duration of daily GI practiced at home and MMS, QMI, CS, general health, and general stress at baseline. The subjects who had practiced GI at home longer had lower negative mood scores at baseline and lower severity of stress, and higher positive mood at baseline (both at a session and at home), general health, and QMI scores at baseline. The MMS change during a session and the duration of daily GI practiced at home were not correlated. Repeated-measures analysis of covariance showed that the duration of daily GI practiced as the covariate was not associated with changes in the three CS levels.
Conclusion
Although regularly practicing a GI program daily for 20 min did not affect the CS level or mood during a GI session for several hours, it kept a good condition of the general mental, physical well-being and their overall stress of the practitioners as they had practiced it for long duration. We postulate that subjects who have the high ability of imaging vividness showed the better mood, health status and less stress than those subjects who have the low ability of it did. The ability of image vividness of the long-term regular practitioners of GI was higher than its short-term or inexperienced practitioners, which allowed practitioners to produce more comfortable imagery. Consequently, the longer the duration that they had practiced GI program once a day regularly, the lower scores of their stress were and the higher scores of their health were. We suggest that the regular daily practice of a GI program might be connected to less stress and better health.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-21
PMCID: PMC1343583  PMID: 16368006
3.  A gap between acceptance and knowledge of herbal remedies by physicians: The need for educational intervention 
Background
The unprecedented global increase in the use of herbal remedies is set to continue apace well into the foreseeable future. This raises important public health concerns, especially as it relates to safety issues including adverse effects and herb-drug interactions. Most Western-trained physicians are ignorant of the risks and benefits of this healthcare modality and assessment of acceptance and knowledge would identify appropriate intervention strategies to improve physician-patient communication in this area.
Methods
A cross-sectional survey was done using an interviewer-administered pilot tested de novo questionnaire at six public hospitals in Trinidad between May–July 2004. The questionnaire utilized weighed questions to quantify acceptance (maximum score = 14 points) and knowledge (maximum score = 52 points). Acceptance and knowledge scores were analyzed using the ANOVA and Tukey's tests.
Results
Of 192 physicians interviewed, most (60.4%) believed that herbal remedies were beneficial to health. Respondents had relatively high acceptance levels (mean = 5.69 ± 0.29 points or 40% of total possible score) and poor knowledge (mean = 7.77 ± 0.56 points or 15% of total possible score). Seventy-eight physicians (40.6%) admitted having used herbs in the past, and 60 of these (76.9%) were satisfied with the outcome. Although 52 physicians (27.1%) recommended the use of herbs to their patients only 29 (15.1%) were able to identify at least one known herb-drug interaction.
Conclusion
The use of herbal remedies is relatively high in Trinidad, as throughout the world, and most patients self-medicate with or without the knowledge of their attending physician. Surprisingly, we demonstrated relatively high acceptance levels and use of herbs among physicians in Trinidad. This interesting scenario of high acceptance levels and poor knowledge creates a situation that demands urgent intervention. We recommend educational intervention to narrow the gap between acceptance and knowledge so that physicians would be adequately equipped to communicate with their patients on this modality. The integration of herbal medicine into the curriculum of medical schools, continuing education programs and the availability of reputable pharmacopoeias for referencing at public health institutions are useful instruments that can be used to close this gap and promote improved physician-patient communication.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-20
PMCID: PMC1310610  PMID: 16297236
4.  Acupuncture and rehabilitation of the painful shoulder: study protocol of an ongoing multicentre randomised controlled clinical trial [ISRCTN28687220] 
Background
Although the painful shoulder is one of the most common dysfunctions of the locomotor apparatus, and is frequently treated both at primary healthcare centres and by specialists, little evidence has been reported to support or refute the effectiveness of the treatments most commonly applied. According to the bibliography reviewed, physiotherapy, which is the most common action taken to alleviate this problem, has not yet been proven to be effective, because of the small size of sample groups and the lack of methodological rigor in the papers published on the subject. No reviews have been made to assess the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating this complaint, but in recent years controlled randomised studies have been made and these demonstrate an increasing use of acupuncture to treat pathologies of the soft tissues of the shoulder. In this study, we seek to evaluate the effectiveness of physiotherapy applied jointly with acupuncture, compared with physiotherapy applied with a TENS-placebo, in the treatment of painful shoulder caused by subacromial syndrome (rotator cuff tendinitis and subacromial bursitis).
Methods/design
Randomised controlled multicentre study with blind evaluation by an independent observer and blind, independent analysis. A study will be made of 465 patients referred to the rehabilitation services at participating healthcare centres, belonging to the regional public health systems of Andalusia and Murcia, these patients presenting symptoms of painful shoulder and a diagnosis of subacromial syndrome (rotator cuff tendinitis and subacromial bursitis). The patients will be randomised into two groups: 1) experimental (acupuncture + physiotherapy); 2) control (TENS-placebo + physiotherapy); the administration of rescue medication will also be allowed. The treatment period will have a duration of three weeks. The main result variable will be the change produced on Constant's Shoulder Function Assessment (SFA) Scale; as secondary variables, we will record the changes in diurnal pain intensity on a visual analogue scale (VAS), nocturnal pain intensity on the VAS, doses of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) taken during the study period, credibility scale for the treatment, degree of improvement perceived by the patient and degree of improvement perceived by the evaluator. A follow up examination will be made at 3, 6 and 12 months after the study period has ended. Two types of population will be considered for analysis: per protocol and per intention to treat.
Discussion
The discussion will take into account the limitations of the study, together with considerations such as the choice of a simple, safe method to treat this shoulder complaint, the choice of the control group, and the blinding of the patients, evaluators and those responsible for carrying out the final analysis.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-19
PMCID: PMC1277817  PMID: 16225693
5.  Evaluation of antimotility effect of Lantana camara L. var. acuelata constituents on neostigmine induced gastrointestinal transit in mice 
Background
Lantana camara L. (Verbenaceae), a widely growing shrub which is toxic to some animal species, has been used in the traditional medicine for treating many ailments. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the antimotility effects of Lantana camara leaf constituents in mice intestine.
Methods
Evaluation of antimotility activity was done in intestine of mice treated with Lantana camara leaf powder, Lantana camara methanolic extract (LCME), lantadene A, neostigmine and neostigmine + LCME. Neostigmine was used as a promotility agent. Intestinal motility was assessed by charcoal meal test and gastrointestinal transit rate was expressed as the percentage of the distance traversed by the charcoal divided by the total length of the small intestine. The antidiarrheal effect of LCME was studied against castor oil induced diarrhea model in mice.
Results
The intestinal transit with LCME at a dose of 500 mg/kg was 26.46% whereas the higher dose (1 g/kg) completely inhibited the transit of charcoal in normal mice. The % intestinal transit in the neostigmine pretreated groups was 24 and 11 at the same doses respectively. When the plant extracts at 125 and 250 mg/kg doses were administered intraperitonealy, there was significant reduction in fecal output compared with castor oil treated mice. At higher doses (500 and 1000 mg/kg), the fecal output was almost completely stopped.
Conclusion
The remarkable antimotility effect of Lantana camara methanolic extract against neostigmine as promotility agent points towards an anticholinergic effect due to Lantana camara constituents and attests to its possible utility in secretory and functional diarrheas and other gastrointestinal disorders. This effect was further confirmed by significant inhibition of castor oil induced diarrhea in mice by various doses of LCME.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-18
PMCID: PMC1249555  PMID: 16168064
6.  Protective action of a hexane crude extract of Pterodon emarginatus fruits against oxidative and nitrosative stress induced by acute exercise in rats 
Background
The aim of the present work was to evaluate the effect of a hexane crude extract (HCE) of Pterodon emarginatus on the oxidative and nitrosative stress induced in skeletal muscle, liver and brain of acutely exercised rats.
Methods
Adult male rats were subjected to acute exercise by standardized contractions of the tibialis anterior (TA) muscle (100 Hz, 15 min) and treated orally with the HCE (once or three times with a fixed dose of 498 mg/kg), before and after acute exercise. Serum creatine kinase activity was determined by a kinetic method and macrophage infiltration by histological analyses of TA muscle. Lipid peroxidation was measured as malondialdehyde (MDA) levels. Nitric oxide production was evaluated by measuring nitrite formation, using Griess reagent, and nitrotyrosine was assessed by western blotting.
Results
Serum creatine kinase activities in the controls (111 U/L) increased 1 h after acute exercise (443 U/L). Acute exercise also increased the infiltration of macrophages into TA muscle; lipid peroxidation levels in TA muscle (967%), liver (55.5%) and brain (108.9%), as well as the nitrite levels by 90.5%, 30.7% and 60%, respectively. The pattern of nitrotyrosine formation was also affected by acute exercise. Treatment with HCE decreased macrophage infiltration, lipid peroxidation, nitrite production and nitrotyrosine levels to control values.
Conclusion
Acute exercise induced by functional electrical stimulation in rats resulted in increase in lipid peroxidation, nitrite and nitrotyrosine levels in brain, liver and skeletal muscle. The exercise protocol, that involved eccentric muscle contraction, also caused some muscle trauma, associated with over-exertion, leading to inflammation. The extract of P. emarginatus abolished most of these oxidative processes, thus confirming the high antioxidant activity of this oil which infusions are used in folk medicine against inflammatory processes.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-17
PMCID: PMC1192789  PMID: 16107219
7.  An experimental study of sexual function improving effect of Myristica fragrans Houtt. (nutmeg) 
Background
Myristica fragrans Houtt. (nutmeg) has been mentioned in Unani medicine to be of value in the management of male sexual disorders. The present study was undertaken to evaluate the aphrodisiac effect of 50% ethanolic extract of nutmeg along with its likely adverse effects and acute toxicity using various animal models.
Methods
The suspension of the extract was administered (100, 250 and 500 mg/kg, p.o.) to different groups of male rats daily for seven days. The female rats involved in mating were made receptive by hormonal treatment. The general mating behaviour, libido and potency were studied and compared with the standard reference drug sildenafil citrate. Likely adverse effects and acute toxicity of the extract were also evaluated.
Results
Oral administration of the extract at the dose of 500 mg/kg, produced significant augmentation of sexual activity in male rats. It significantly increased the Mounting Frequency, Intromission Frequency, Intromission Latency and caused significant reduction in the Mounting Latency and Post Ejaculatory Interval. It also significantly increased Mounting Frequency with penile anaesthetisation as well as Erections, Quick Flips, Long Flips and the aggregate of penile reflexes with penile stimulation. The extract was also observed to be devoid of any adverse effects and acute toxicity.
Conclusion
The resultant significant and sustained increase in the sexual activity of normal male rats without any conspicuous adverse effects indicates that the 50% ethanolic extract of nutmeg possesses aphrodisiac activity, increasing both libido and potency, which might be attributed to its nervous stimulating property. The present study thus provides a scientific rationale for the traditional use of nutmeg in the management of male sexual disorders.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-16
PMCID: PMC1187868  PMID: 16033651
8.  Naturopaths practice behaviour: provision and access to information on complementary and alternative medicines 
Background
The increasing use of complementary and alternative medicines in Australia has generated concern regarding the information on these products available to both healthcare providers and the public. The aim of this study was to examine the practice behaviours of naturopaths in relation to both the provision of and access to information on complementary and alternative medicines (CAM).
Methods
A representative sample of 300 practicing naturopaths located nationally were sent a comprehensive survey which gathered data on self reported practice behaviour in relation to the provision of information on oral CAM to clients and the information needs of the practitioners themselves
Results
A response rate of 35% was achieved. Most practitioners (98%) have a dispensary within their clinic and the majority of practitioners perform the dispensing themselves. Practitioners reported they provided information to clients, usually in the form of verbal information (96%), handwritten notes (83%) and printed information (75%). The majority of practitioners (over 75%) reported always giving information on the full name of the product, reason for prescribing, expected response, possible interactions and contraindications and actions of the product. Information resources most often used by practitioners included professional newsletters, seminars run by manufacturers, patient feedback and personal observation of patients. Most practitioners were positive about the information they could access but felt that more information was required in areas such as adverse reactions and safe use of CAM in children, pregnancy and breastfeeding. Most naturopaths (over 96%) were informed about adverse events through manufacturer or distributor newsletters. The barriers in the provision of information to clients were misleading or incorrect information in the media, time constraints, information overload and complex language used in printed information. The main barrier to the practitioner in information access was seen as the perceived division between orthodox and complementary medicine practitioners.
Conclusion
Our data suggest most naturopaths were concerned about possible interaction between pharmaceuticals and CAM, and explore this area with their patients. There is scope to improve practitioners' access to information of adverse events including an increased awareness of sources of information such as the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) website.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-15
PMCID: PMC1182348  PMID: 16004617
9.  Antihyperlipidemic and antiperoxidative effect of Diasulin, a polyherbal formulation in alloxan induced hyperglycemic rats 
Background
This study was undertaken to investigation the effect of Diasulin, a poly herbal drug composed of ethanolic extract of ten medicinal plants on blood glucose, plasma insulin, tissue lipid profile, and lipidperoxidation in alloxan induced diabetes.
Methods
Ethanolic extract of Diasulin a, poly herbal drug was administered orally (200 mg/kg body weight) for 30 days. The different doses of Diasulin on blood glucose and plasma insulin in diabetic rats were studied and the levels of lipid peroxides [TBARS, and Hydroperoxide] and tissue lipids [cholesterol, triglyceride, phospholipides and free fatty acids] were also estimated in alloxan induced diabetic rats. The effects were compared with glibenclamide.
Result
Treatment with Diasulin and glibenclamide resulted in a significant reduction of blood glucose and increase in plasma insulin. Diasulin also resulted in a significant decrease in tissue lipids and lipid peroxide formation. The effect produced by Diasulin was comparable with that of glibenclamide.
Conclusion
The decreased lipid peroxides and tissue lipids clearly showed the antihyperlipidemic and antiperoxidative effect of Diasulin apart from its antidiabetic effect.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-14
PMCID: PMC1183188  PMID: 15969768
10.  A systematic review of how homeopathy is represented in conventional and CAM peer reviewed journals 
Background
Growing popularity of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the public sector is reflected in the scientific community by an increased number of research articles assessing its therapeutic effects. Some suggest that publication biases occur in mainstream medicine, and may also occur in CAM. Homeopathy is one of the most widespread and most controversial forms of CAM. The purpose of this study was to compare the representation of homeopathic clinical trials published in traditional science and CAM journals.
Methods
Literature searches were performed using Medline (PubMed), AMED and Embase computer databases. Search terms included "homeo-pathy, -path, and -pathic" and "clinical" and "trial". All articles published in English over the past 10 years were included. Our search yielded 251 articles overall, of which 46 systematically examined the efficacy of homeopathic treatment. We categorized the overall results of each paper as having either "positive" or "negative" outcomes depending upon the reported effects of homeopathy. We also examined and compared 15 meta-analyses and review articles on homeopathy to ensure our collection of clinical trials was reasonably comprehensive. These articles were found by inserting the term "review" instead of "clinical" and "trial".
Results
Forty-six peer-reviewed articles published in a total of 23 different journals were compared (26 in CAM journals and 20 in conventional journals). Of those in conventional journals, 69% reported negative findings compared to only 30% in CAM journals. Very few articles were found to be presented in a "negative" tone, and most were presented using "neutral" or unbiased language.
Conclusion
A considerable difference exists between the number of clinical trials showing positive results published in CAM journals compared with traditional journals. We found only 30% of those articles published in CAM journals presented negative findings, whereas over twice that amount were published in traditional journals. These results suggest a publication bias against homeopathy exists in mainstream journals. Conversely, the same type of publication bias does not appear to exist between review and meta-analysis articles published in the two types of journals.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-12
PMCID: PMC1177924  PMID: 15955254
11.  A survey of training and practice patterns of massage therapists in two US states 
Background
Despite the growing popularity of therapeutic massage in the US, little is known about the training or practice characteristics of massage therapists. The objective of this study was to describe these characteristics.
Methods
As part of a study of random samples of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners, we interviewed 226 massage therapists licensed in Connecticut and Washington state by telephone in 1998 and 1999 (85% of those contacted) and then asked a sample of them to record information on 20 consecutive visits to their practices (total of 2005 consecutive visits).
Results
Most massage therapists were women (85%), white (95%), and had completed some continuing education training (79% in Connecticut and 52% in Washington). They treated a limited number of conditions, most commonly musculoskeletal (59% and 63%) (especially back, neck, and shoulder problems), wellness care (20% and 19%), and psychological complaints (9% and 6%) (especially anxiety and depression). Practitioners commonly used one or more assessment techniques (67% and 74%) and gave a massage emphasizing Swedish (81% and 77%), deep tissue (63% and 65%), and trigger/pressure point techniques (52% and 46%). Self-care recommendations, including increasing water intake, body awareness, and specific forms of movement, were made as part of more than 80% of visits. Although most patients self-referred to massage, more than one-quarter were receiving concomitant care for the same problem from a physician. Massage therapists rarely communicated with these physicians.
Conclusion
This study provides new information about licensed massage therapists that should be useful to physicians and other healthcare providers interested in learning about massage therapy in order to advise their patients about this popular CAM therapy.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-13
PMCID: PMC1182347  PMID: 15955245
12.  Is complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) cost-effective? a systematic review 
Background
Out-of-pocket expenditures of over $34 billion per year in the US are an apparent testament to a widely held belief that complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies have benefits that outweigh their costs. However, regardless of public opinion, there is often little more than anecdotal evidence on the health and economic implications of CAM therapies. The objectives of this study are to present an overview of economic evaluation and to expand upon a previous review to examine the current scope and quality of CAM economic evaluations.
Methods
The data sources used were Medline, AMED, Alt-HealthWatch, and the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Citation Index; January 1999 to October 2004. Papers that reported original data on specific CAM therapies from any form of standard economic analysis were included. Full economic evaluations were subjected to two types of quality review. The first was a 35-item checklist for reporting quality, and the second was a set of four criteria for study quality (randomization, prospective collection of economic data, comparison to usual care, and no blinding).
Results
A total of 56 economic evaluations (39 full evaluations) of CAM were found covering a range of therapies applied to a variety of conditions. The reporting quality of the full evaluations was poor for certain items, but was comparable to the quality found by systematic reviews of economic evaluations in conventional medicine. Regarding study quality, 14 (36%) studies were found to meet all four criteria. These exemplary studies indicate CAM therapies that may be considered cost-effective compared to usual care for various conditions: acupuncture for migraine, manual therapy for neck pain, spa therapy for Parkinson's, self-administered stress management for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, pre- and post-operative oral nutritional supplementation for lower gastrointestinal tract surgery, biofeedback for patients with "functional" disorders (eg, irritable bowel syndrome), and guided imagery, relaxation therapy, and potassium-rich diet for cardiac patients.
Conclusion
Whereas the number and quality of economic evaluations of CAM have increased in recent years and more CAM therapies have been shown to be of good value, the majority of CAM therapies still remain to be evaluated.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-11
PMCID: PMC1182346  PMID: 15932647
13.  Electrical impedance along connective tissue planes associated with acupuncture meridians 
Background
Acupuncture points and meridians are commonly believed to possess unique electrical properties. The experimental support for this claim is limited given the technical and methodological shortcomings of prior studies. Recent studies indicate a correspondence between acupuncture meridians and connective tissue planes. We hypothesized that segments of acupuncture meridians that are associated with loose connective tissue planes (between muscles or between muscle and bone) visible by ultrasound have greater electrical conductance (less electrical impedance) than non-meridian, parallel control segments.
Methods
We used a four-electrode method to measure the electrical impedance along segments of the Pericardium and Spleen meridians and corresponding parallel control segments in 23 human subjects. Meridian segments were determined by palpation and proportional measurements. Connective tissue planes underlying those segments were imaged with an ultrasound scanner. Along each meridian segment, four gold-plated needles were inserted along a straight line and used as electrodes. A parallel series of four control needles were placed 0.8 cm medial to the meridian needles. For each set of four needles, a 3.3 kHz alternating (AC) constant amplitude current was introduced at three different amplitudes (20, 40, and 80 μAmps) to the outer two needles, while the voltage was measured between the inner two needles. Tissue impedance between the two inner needles was calculated based on Ohm's law (ratio of voltage to current intensity).
Results
At the Pericardium location, mean tissue impedance was significantly lower at meridian segments (70.4 ± 5.7 Ω) compared with control segments (75.0 ± 5.9 Ω) (p = 0.0003). At the Spleen location, mean impedance for meridian (67.8 ± 6.8 Ω) and control segments (68.5 ± 7.5 Ω) were not significantly different (p = 0.70).
Conclusion
Tissue impedance was on average lower along the Pericardium meridian, but not along the Spleen meridian, compared with their respective controls. Ultrasound imaging of meridian and control segments suggested that contact of the needle with connective tissue may explain the decrease in electrical impedance noted at the Pericardium meridian. Further studies are needed to determine whether tissue impedance is lower in (1) connective tissue in general compared with muscle and (2) meridian-associated vs. non meridian-associated connective tissue.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-10
PMCID: PMC1142259  PMID: 15882468
14.  Anti-obesity effects of chikusetsusaponins isolated from Panax japonicus rhizomes 
Background
The rhizomes of Panax japonicus are used as a folk medicine for treatment of life-style related diseases such as arteriosclerosis, hyperlipidemia, hypertension and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus as a substitute for ginseng roots in China and Japan. Obesity is closely associated with life-style-related diseases. This study was performed to clarify whether chikusetsusaponins prevent obesity induced in mice by a high-fat diet for 9 weeks.
Methods
We performed two in vivo experiments. In one, female ICR mice were fed a high-fat diet with or without 1 or 3% chikusetsusaponins isolated from P. japonicus rhizomes for 9 weeks. In the other, lipid emulsion with or without chikusetsusaponins was administered orally to male Wistar rats, and then the plasma triacylglycerol level was measured 0.5 to 5 h after the orally administered lipid emulsion. For in vitro experiments, the inhibitory effects of total chikusetsusaponins and various purified chikusetsusaponins on pancreatic lipase activity were determined by measuring the rate of release of oleic acid from triolein in an assay system using triolein emulsified with lecithin.
Results
Total chikusetsusaponins prevented the increases in body weight and parametrial adipose tissue weight induced by a high-fat diet. Furthermore, consumption of a high-fat diet containing 1 or 3% total chikusetsusaponins significantly increased the fecal content and triacylglycerol level at day 3 compared with the high-fat diet groups. Total chikusetsusaponins inhibited the elevation of the plasma triacylglycerol level 2 h after the oral administration of the lipid emulsion. Total chikusetsusaponins, chikusetsusaponin III, 28-deglucosyl-chikusetsusaponin IV and 28-deglucosyl-chikusetsusaponin V inhibited the pancreatic lipase activity.
Conclusion
The anti-obesity effects of chikusetsusaponins isolated from P. japonicus rhizomes in mice fed a high-fat diet may be partly mediated through delaying the intestinal absorption of dietary fat by inhibiting pancreatic lipase activity. The present study clearly indicated that the saponin fractions of P. japonicus rhizomes had a significant anti-obesity action and supports the traditional usage as a substitute drug for ginseng roots.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-9
PMCID: PMC1097713  PMID: 15811191
15.  Effects of Maharishi Amrit Kalash 5 as an Ayurvedic herbal food supplement on immune functions in aged mice 
Background
Maharishi Amrit Kalash (MAK) 5, one of the Ayurvedic food supplements, belongs to a group of substances known as Rasayana. MAK5 and other Rasayanas are believed to enhance the body's resistance to infections and disease, and enhance longevity. In this study, we determined the effects of administration of MAK5, one of the Ayurvedic food supplements on immune functions in young and old mice.
Methods
Male C3H/He N mice were divided into five groups: two no treatment groups (old control: 22-month-old and young control: 2-month-old) and three MAK5 treated groups with differing dose of MAK5. MAK5 was given p.o. at 50 mg/kg, 100 mg/kg or 200 mg/kg per day (3 days/week) for 2 months.
Results
We found that glucose consumption of peritoneal macrophages from old mice treated with MAK5 at all doses and incubated for 48 and 72 h were significantly greater than that in the control group. Nitric oxide production of peritoneal macrophages stimulated by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in old mice treated with MAK5 at all doses was significantly greater than that in the old control group, but not compared to the young control group. Stimulation index (S.I.) in old mice gavaged with MAK5 at all doses was significantly higher than that in the old control group. IL-2 production stimulated by Con A in old mice given MAK5 at all doses was significantly higher than that in the old control group. Production of IFN-γ stimulated by Con A in old mice given MAK5 at doses of 100 mg/kg and 200 mg/kg were significantly higher than that in the old control group. IL-4 production of splenic lymphocyte stimulated by Con A in old mice given MAK5 at dose levels of 100 and 200 mg/kg were significantly higher than that in the old control group.
Conclusion
The results suggest that MAK5 suppressed the age associated glucose consumption of peritoneal macrophages and cellular immune function reduction, and that it contributes to the prevention of the immunosenescence.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-8
PMCID: PMC1084244  PMID: 15790423
17.  Screening of crude extracts of six medicinal plants used in South-West Nigerian unorthodox medicine for anti-methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus activity 
Background
Six Nigerian medicinal plants Terminalia avicennioides, Phylantus discoideus, Bridella ferruginea, Ageratum conyzoides, Ocimum gratissimum and Acalypha wilkesiana used by traditional medical practitioners for the treatment of several ailments of microbial and non-microbial origins were investigated for in vitro anti-methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) activity.
Methods
Fresh plant materials were collected from the users. Water and ethanol extracts of the shredded plants were obtained by standard methods. The Bacterial cultures used were strains of MRSA isolated from patients. MRSA was determined by the reference broth microdilution methods using the established National Committee for Clinical Laboratory Standards break points. Staphylococcus aureus NCIB 8588 was used as a standard strain. Susceptibility testing and phytochemical screening of the plant extracts were performed by standard procedures. Controls were maintained for each test batch.
Results
Both water and ethanol extracts of T. avicennioides, P. discoideus, O. gratissimum, and A. wilkesiana were effective on MRSA. The Minimum Inhibition Concentration (MIC) and Minimum Bactericidal Concentration (MBC) of the ethanol extracts of these plants range from 18.2 to 24.0 mcg/ml and 30.4 to 37.0 mcg/ml respectively. In contrast, MIC range of 30.6 to 43.0 mcg/ml and 55.4 to 71.0 mcg/ml were recorded for ethanol and water extracts of B. ferruginea, and A. conyzoides respectively. Higher MBC values were obtained for the two plants. These concentrations were too high to be considered active in this study. All the four active plants contained at least trace amount of anthraquinones.
Conclusion
Our results offer a scientific basis for the traditional use of water and ethanol extracts of A. wilkesiana, O. gratissimum, T. avicennioides and P. discoideus against MRSA-associated diseases. However, B. ferruginea and A. conyzoides were ineffective in vitro in this study; we therefore suggest the immediate stoppage of their traditional use against MRSA-associated diseases in Lagos, Nigeria.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-6
PMCID: PMC1079793  PMID: 15762997
18.  The chalcone butein from Rhus verniciflua Stokes inhibits clonogenic growth of human breast cancer cells co-cultured with fibroblasts 
Background
Butein (3,4,2',4'-tetrahydroxychalone), a plant polyphenol, is a major biologically active component of the stems of Rhus verniciflua Stokes. It has long been used as a food additive in Korea and as an herbal medicine throughout Asia. Recently, butein has been shown to suppress the functions of fibroblasts. Because fibroblasts are believed to play an important role in promoting the growth of breast cancer cells, we investigated the ability of butein to inhibit the clonogenic growth of small numbers of breast cancer cells co-cultured with fibroblasts in vitro.
Methods
We first measured the clonogenic growth of small numbers of the UACC-812 human breast cancer cell line co-cultured on monolayers of serum-activated, human fibroblasts in the presence of butein (2 μg/mL) or various other modulators of fibroblast function (troglitazone-1 μg/mL; GW9662-1 μM; meloxican-1 μM; and 3,4 dehydroproline-10 μg/mL). In a subsequent experiment, we measured the dose-response effect on the clonogenic growth of UACC-812 breast cancer cells by pre-incubating the fibroblasts with varying concentrations of butein (10 μg/ml-1.25 μg/mL). Finally, we measured the clonogenic growth of primary breast cancer cells obtained from 5 clinical specimens with normal fibroblasts and with fibroblasts that had been pre-treated with a fixed dose of butein (2.5 μg/mL).
Results
Of the five modulators of fibroblast function that we tested, butein was by far the most potent inhibitor of clonogenic growth of UACC-812 breast cancer cells co-cultured with fibroblasts. Pre-treatment of fibroblasts with concentrations of butein as low as 2.5 μg/mL nearly abolished subsequent clonogenic growth of UACC-812 breast cancer cells co-cultured with the fibroblasts. A similar dose of butein had no effect on the clonogenic growth of breast cancer cells cultured in the absence of fibroblasts. Significantly, clonogenic growth of the primary breast cancer cells was also significantly reduced or abolished when the tumor cells were co-cultured with fibroblasts that had been pre-treated with a fixed dose of butein.
Conclusion
We conclude that fibroblasts pre-treated with non-toxic doses of butein (a natural herbal compound) no longer support the clonogenic growth of small numbers of primary breast cancer cells seeded into co-cultures. These results suggest that interference with the interaction between fibroblasts and breast cancer cells by the natural herbal compound, butein, should be further investigated as a novel experimental approach for possibly suppressing the growth of micrometastases of breast cancer.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-5
PMCID: PMC554991  PMID: 15757513
19.  Use of biological based therapy in patients with cardiovascular diseases in a university-hospital in New York City 
Background
The use of complementary and alternative products including Biological Based Therapy (BBT) has increased among patients with various medical illnesses and conditions. The studies assessing the prevalence of BBT use among patients with cardiovascular diseases are limited. Therefore, an evaluation of BBT in this patient population would be beneficial. This was a survey designed to determine the effects of demographics on the use of Biological Based Therapy (BBT) in patients with cardiovascular diseases. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of the education level on the use of BBT in cardiovascular patients. This survey also assessed the perceptions of users regarding the safety/efficacy of BBT, types of BBT used and potential BBT-drug interactions.
Method
The survey instrument was designed to assess the findings. Patients were interviewed from February 2001 to December 2002. 198 inpatients with cardiovascular diseases (94 BBT users and 104 non-users) in a university hospital were included in the study.
Results
Users had a significantly higher level of education than non-users (college graduate: 28 [30%] versus 12 [12%], p = 0.003). Top 10 BBT products used were vitamin E [41(43.6%)], vitamin C [30(31.9%)], multivitamins [24(25.5%)], calcium [19(20.2%)], vitamin B complex [17(18.1%)], fish oil [12(12.8%)], coenzyme Q10 [11(11.7%)], glucosamine [10(10.6%)], magnesium [8(8.5%)] and vitamin D [6(6.4%)]. Sixty percent of users' physicians knew of the BBT use. Compared to non-users, users believed BBT to be safer (p < 0.001) and more effective (p < 0.001) than prescription drugs. Forty-two potential drug-BBT interactions were identified.
Conclusion
Incidence of use of BBT in cardiovascular patients is high (47.5%), as is the risk of potential drug interaction. Health care providers need to monitor BBT use in patients with cardiovascular diseases.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-4
PMCID: PMC555537  PMID: 15745441
20.  Medicinal herb use among asthmatic patients attending a specialty care facility in Trinidad 
Background
There is an increasing prevalence of asthma in the Caribbean and patients remain non-compliant to therapy despite the development of guidelines for management and prevention. Some patients may self-medicate with medicinal herbs for symptomatic relief, as there is a long tradition of use for a variety of ailments. The study assessed the prevalence of use and the factors affecting the decision to use herbs in asthmatic patients attending a public specialty care clinic in Trinidad.
Methods
A descriptive, cross-sectional study was conducted at the Chest Clinic in Trinidad using a de novo, pilot-tested, researcher-administered questionnaire between June and July 2003.
Results
Fifty-eight out of 191 patients (30.4%) reported using herbal remedies for symptomatic relief. Gender, age, ethnicity, and asthma severity did not influence the decision to use herbs; however, 62.5% of patients with tertiary level schooling used herbs, p = 0.025. Thirty-four of these 58 patients (58.6%) obtained herbs from their backyards or the supermarket; only 14 patients (24.1%) obtained herbs from an herbalist, herbal shop or pharmacy. Relatives and friends were the sole source of information for most patients (70.7%), and only 10.3% consulted an herbalist. Ginger, garlic, aloes, shandileer, wild onion, pepper and black sage were the most commonly used herbs.
Conclusions
Among patients attending the Chest Clinic in Trinidad the use of herbal remedies in asthma is relatively common on the advice of relatives and friends. It is therefore becoming imperative for healthcare providers to become more knowledgeable on this modality and to keep abreast with the latest developments.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-3
PMCID: PMC553979  PMID: 15713232
21.  Time-lapse analysis of potential cellular responsiveness to Johrei, a Japanese healing technique 
Background
Johrei is an alternative healing practice which involves the channeling of a purported universal healing energy to influence the health of another person. Despite little evidence to support the efficacy of such practices the use of such treatments is on the rise.
Methods
We assessed cultured human cancer cells for potential responsiveness to Johrei treatment from a short distance. Johrei treatment was delivered by practitioners who participated in teams of two, alternating every half hour for a total of four hours of treatment. The practitioners followed a defined set of mental procedures to minimize variability in mental states between experiments. An environmental chamber maintained optimal growth conditions for cells throughout the experiments. Computerized time-lapse microscopy allowed documentation of cancer cell proliferation and cell death before, during and after Johrei treatments.
Results
Comparing eight control experiments with eight Johrei intervention experiments, we found no evidence of a reproducible cellular response to Johrei treatment.
Conclusion
Cell death and proliferation rates of cultured human cancer cells do not appear responsive to Johrei treatment from a short distance.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-2
PMCID: PMC548282  PMID: 15667653
22.  Adaptogenic and nootropic activities of aqueous extract of Vitis vinifera (grape seed): an experimental study in rat model 
Background
The aerial parts of Vitis vinifera (common grape or European grape) have been widely used in Ayurveda to treat a variety of common and stress related disorders. In the present investigation, the seed extract of V. vinifera was evaluated for antistress activity in normal and stress induced rats. Furthermore, the extract was studied for nootropic activity in rats and in-vitro antioxidant potential to correlate its antistress activity.
Methods
For the evaluation of antistress activity, groups of rats (n = 6) were subjected to forced swim stress one hour after daily treatment of V. vinifera extract. Urinary vanillylmandelic acid (VMA) and ascorbic acid were selected as non-invasive biomarkers to assess the antistress activity. The 24 h urinary excretion of vanillylmandelic acid (VMA) and ascorbic acid were determined by spectrophotometric methods in all groups under normal and stressed conditions. The nootropic activity of the extract as determined from acquisition, retention and retrieval in rats was studied by conditioned avoidance response using Cook's pole climbing apparatus. The in vitro antioxidant activity was determined based on the ability of V. vinifera to scavenge hydroxyl radicals.
Results
Daily administration of V. vinifera at doses of 100, 200 and 300 mg/kg body weight one hour prior to induction of stress inhibited the stress induced urinary biochemical changes in a dose dependent manner. However, no change in the urinary excretion of VMA and ascorbic acid was observed in normal animals at all the doses studied. The cognition, as determined by the acquisition, retention and recovery in rats was observed to be dose dependent. The extract also produced significant inhibition of hydroxyl radicals in comparison to ascorbic acid in a dose dependent manner.
Conclusion
The present study provides scientific support for the antistress (adaptogenic), antioxidant and nootropic activities of V. vinifera seed extract and substantiate the traditional claims for the usage of grape fruits and seeds in stress induced disorders.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-1
PMCID: PMC547917  PMID: 15656916

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